Eagles training camp is five weeks away, and in each week leading up to it we’ll highlight a different position group where the starting job is up for grabs. We begin with the most exciting position in all of sports: place kicker.
The incumbent: Cody Parkey and Caleb Sturgis.
Parkey made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2014 after converting the 2nd most extra points and 3rd most field goals. In the 2015 he suffered a groin injury in the preseason and then re-aggravated it in Week 3 vs the Jets, ending his season. Sturgis was signed to replace him. Sturgis had his best season from 40+ yards last year, making 75% of attempts, an area where he struggled during his two years in Miami. Both players have small sample size warnings: Sturgis was 6 of 8 from 40+, in Miami he converted just 60.6% of 33 attempts from 40+ yards. For his career Parkey has made 75% of his 40+ yard kicks, though he only has 12 career attempts. If either had a larger body of consistent work to evaluate, they wouldn’t be competing for the job.
Leader in the clubhouse: Sturgis, slightly. In OTAs and minicamp, Sturgis has looked a little better. Parkey may have been dealing with lingering effects of his injury though. The job will be won or lost in preseason and camp.
Contract implications: None. There’s no real difference between the two in terms of contracts, Sturgis will make $675k, Parkey $600k, neither have any dead money when released. The Eagles won’t pick Parkey just so they can save $75,000 against the cap. It’s worth noting that both are in the last year of their contracts, though Parkey will be a restricted free agent. Whoever wins the job may be out of it in a year.
Wild Card: Every year a team or two acquires their kicker during the preseason. The Eagles traded David Fluellen to the Colts for Parkey late in the 2014 pre-season to replace
BGN favorite Alex Henery. If neither kicker in camp impresses, the opening day kicker could be one picked up in August.
Way too early prediction: Sturgis. He has to consistently hit long kicks in camp and preseason games to show that his improved kicking from distance under Dave Fipp is real, but his superior distance in kickoffs gives him an edge over Parkey.
While some teams opt to keep two kickers, there is little chance the Eagles chose to keep both. Like The Highlander, there can only be one. It’s not the most exciting camp battle, but with games constantly won and lost by narrow margins, a kicker camp battle can matter.